Master Andrew Adansi Bonnah, the 11-year-old Ghanaian schoolboy who recently launched a global campaign to raise $13 million for victims of famine in Somalia, has been appointed Goodwill Ambassador for Girl Soldier Eradication in Africa.
Master Bonnah, moved by television images of the ravages of war and famine in the Horn of Africa nation, launched the fund and will now work towards advancing global efforts to bring the horrific agenda of girl-soldiers to an end.
The appointment was made at a meeting to celebrate Universal Children's Day in Pretoria, South Africa, according to a statement issued by Mr Kobla Asamani, Technical Adviser of Master Bonnah.
The hidden face of the girl-child soldier was exposed at the meeting amidst a call for a global ban on using child soldiers in war.
It was organized by the Durban-based African Centre for the Constructive Resolution to Disputes (ACCORD). Master Adansi has since returned home.
The statement said in a symbolic celebration of the day dedicated to championing children's rights, 20 eleven year-old children from countries which had been at war or which had recently emerged from war, attended the conference as special guests and drew a sharp focus on the plight of the girl-child soldier.
At the conference, ACCORD launched the “Butterfly Effect Campaign”, to mobilize young people all around the world to campaign for the eradication of the use of child soldiers.
At least 300,000 child soldiers are actively fighting in at least 30 countries, with at least two-thirds in Africa. At least 40 per cent of child soldiers are girls.
In the past decade, around two million children have been killed in armed conflict, three times as many have been seriously injured or permanently disabled, and countless others have been forced to witness or even to take part in horrifying acts of violence.
Master Bonnah, in his acceptance speech, pledged that he was ever ready to work effectively to realize the goals of the “Butterfly Effect Campaign” promising a new hope for African children.
The statement said to display the worldwide suffering of children caught up in wars and conflicts, a special digital link up to Pretoria showed the faces of 11-year old Palestinian children in a television studio who shared stories of the fate they suffered in Gaza.
“Children are not the cause of wars. Grown-ups cause wars. There is no place for children in war zones,” the statement quoted Ms Machel, a renowned international advocate for women's and children's rights and chair of the Board of ACCORD, as saying.
“Despite some progress achieved in the global campaign to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers, large numbers of children continue to be exploited in war and placed in the line of fire. Removing child soldiers from the battlefront is of fundamental importance to humanity,” she added.
Ms Machel said the bold and timely decision by ACCORD and its partners to accelerate the ending of the unacceptable and intolerable practice of using child soldiers in situations of armed conflict and war must be lauded and supported.
She urged all nations to make it their common duty to protect all children, and more especially girls, from the “theatre of warfare, in which they have no place.”
Ms Machel said: “Girl soldiers are particularly at risk of rape, sexual harassment and abuse as well as being involved in combat and other tasks… I have spoken to a child who was raped by soldiers when she was just nine years old. I have witnessed the anguish of a mother who saw her children blown to pieces by land-mines in their fields, just when she believed they had made it home safely after the war.
“I have listened to children forced to watch while their families were brutally slaughtered. I have heard the bitter remorse of 15-year-old ex-soldiers mourning their lost childhood and innocence, and I have been chilled listening to children who have been so manipulated by adults and so corrupted by their experiences of conflict that they could not recognize the evil of which they had been a part.”